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“No it’s fine. I guess I’m just excited. I’ve never been to a private party like this before, so I’m looking forward to it. Plus, when I take off this jacket, you’re going to get an eyeful.”

His eyes slowly drag down my body even though I have a coat on.

“You look fucking amazing already, honey,” he growls.

“Thank you,” I titter.

The billionaire gives me another kiss, lingering a little longer this time and then shuts the car door before getting in on the other side. I thought we’d take off immediately, but instead he pauses, drumming his fingers against the wheel. Reaching over, I rest my hand on his thigh and turn to him with inquisitive eyes.

“Hey, silly. Are we going to this party tonight or what? Are you feeling nervous?”

The handsome man takes a deep breath and then turns to me, his mien unsmiling. There’s a slight wrinkle between his brows, and his mouth is a straight line. Hmm, this is odd.

“Before we go, Michelle, I just want to review a few things with you.”

I nod quickly.

“The collar, right? I have it on already,” I say, pulling my jacket open at the neck to reveal the diamanté-studded leather tied around my throat. “It’s fine, I don’t mind.”

He takes another deep breath, and nods.

“Thank you, baby, but it’s not just that. The party hosts are Vladimir and Semyon Sim. Have you heard of them before?”

I shake my head.

“No, should I have?”

He growls a bit.

“They’re from Russia. Basically, these dudes came to New York about a decade ago and have established themselves as businessmen. Of the underground sort,” he adds darkly.

I nod.

“Oh really? What do they do?”

Ben’s jaw tightens and the skin around his eyes grows taut.

“They buy and sell women,” he bites out. “Basically, they’re slavers.”

My eyes widen and I stare at him, waiting for the punchline.

“What do you mean exactly?”

My man sighs.

“Unfortunately, it’s what it sounds like. When we get to the party, there will be women on display. They’ve been put up for sale, and buyers will be scoping out the product so to say. I just wanted you to know before we arrive because I don’t want you to be startled. But yes, some of the women will be nude and up for auction. It’s done in a lavish way, and there will be plenty of other entertainment, but the product display will absolutely be there. ”

“Oh my God!” I gasp, covering my mouth with both hands. “Are you serious?”

He nods grimly.

“Like I said, this goes beyond what Club Z does. This is flat-out illegal,” Ben rasps.

I shake my head.

“But why are you going? Why are we going? Am I for sale?”

I have half a mind to throw myself out of the car before we start driving, but immediately, Ben turns to me and grips my hands in his large fists, those blue eyes blazing.

“No of course not, baby. You’re mine, and the collar makes that clear. It’s for your safety, so you don’t get swept away by some unscrupulous mafiosos. But I’m having second thoughts. Obviously, this party isn’t your average shindig, and maybe we shouldn’t go.”

I shoot him another look.

“But why are we going? Is it because you couldn’t decline the invitation?”

His gaze grows distant as he taps at the steering wheel once more, staring blindly into the dark.

“I suppose because it’s part of my job,” he replies in a soft voice. I blink. What does human trafficking have to do with NFTs? But then the billionaire turns my way again.

“Again, Michelle, you’re not on the menu tonight, but I don’t know all the guests who will be there, and I’m not willing to risk anyone getting the wrong idea and stepping out of line. So stay close to me, okay? Wear your collar at all times, and I’ll attach a leash so that we don’t get separated. We need to appear as a Master and his pet, but it’s also for safety. Okay?”

I nod, swallowing hard.

“Sure. Okay.”

Then, Ben’s eyes go soft as he rubs his thumbs gently over my cheeks.

“Just stay close, sweetheart. Obey my orders, and it will all work out.”

Then, he leans in and gives me a soft, lingering kiss, before pulling away and throwing the car in drive. I stare out the window as we make our way through the streets of Manhattan, still shaking about what he just told me. Human trafficking? Women being bought and sold? This is so crazy!

Even more, this isn’t like the Ben I’ve been getting to know because yes, he’s got a domineering streak in the bedroom, but it’s just for pleasure. We get off on it, and it’s not about controlling me or harming me in any way. So why are we going to this party? Something’s off and I can’t shake my heebie-jeebies. Yet, I’m going to do as the handsome man asks. I’ll stick close to his side, and with Ben as my protector, everything will be fine.

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